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"They spit on our theory, but that doesn't stop them from dreaming every night."
-Sandor Ferenczi


sacred Ibis
Sacred Ibis (1/23)

 

 

 

 

The Forecast is Hot continued


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Revolt and Revolution

In a country where the great majority of artists, writers and even self-styled "radicals" have always identified themselves with "liberal" (i.e., bourgeois) political traditions, or their pseudo-Marxist equivalents (social-democracy and the many variants of Stalinism), surrealists in the U.S. from the start were grounded in the theory and practice of working class self-emancipation. What Rosa Luxemburg called "the inner wretchedness of bourgeois liberalism, as well as its intimate connection with Reaction," was obvious to us then, and seem so excruciatingly obvious now that it is hard to understand how anyone could possibly deny it. For us, surrealism was—and still is—the most thoroughgoing expression of individual revolt and social/cultural revolution.

We recognize capitalism—wage-slavery—as a global system, rotten to the core and utterly destructive to humankind and the planet. The countless and multiplying horrors perpetrated by this system (from homelessness and war to an out-of-control technology and the devastation of the natural world) can not be cured by piecemeal reforms, or even by large-scale reforms within the framework of capitalist exploitation. Nothing less than social revolution—a radical break with all stultifying and life-denying forms of social organization—can put an end to capitalism's cataclysmic reign of violence, liberate the Earth and its inhabitants from oppression, and bring about a truly free society.

Clearly freedom and equality cannot be realized by a revolution hostile to poetry. As the myth of the "vanguard party" and other authoritarian illusions recede, new emancipatory models of revolution are emerging. Surrealism itself is an active factor here, helping to revolutionize the idea of revolution. What is needed is a revolution that is unafraid of poetry, a revolution determined from the very beginning to lessen the gap between poetry and "reality."

Social revolution of course is only the beginning of the realization of the surrealist project. The Surrealist Movement remains "at the service of the revolution," but it is important to recognize that, for us, revolution is also in the service of surrealism.


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Poetry as Praxis

The first surrealists in Europe, South America and Japan were poets who became revolutionists—without, of course, ceasing to be poets. For the Chicago surrealists—in vehement opposition to the dominant literary cliques and ideologies—poetry and revolution have always been inseparable. Dialectically developing Marx's insight that capitalism is inherently hostile to poetry, surrealism demonstrates that authentic poetry is inherently hostile to capitalism. Indeed, it is poetry, more than anything else—"the supreme disalienation of humanity with its language," as Philip Lamantia has put it—that prepares the climate of expectation and readiness for the actualization of the Marvelous without which revolutionary change is unthinkable. Poetry is erotic affirmation, the call of the wild, analogical thought at its most uncompromising, the refusal to submit, the antithesis of Literature. It ignites desire, affirms negation, expands the possible, advances freedom, foments rebellion, provokes action as well as dreaming, and brings us closer to a life in which action and dream are no longer regarded as being in irreconcilable conflict. For us, poetry is itself revolutionary praxis, and revolution is the process by which poetry is realized in everyday life.


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Psychoanalysis as a Subversive Activity

In the late 1960s even more than now, unmitigated hostility toward Freud prevailed on the Left: a symptom that foretold its collapse a few years later. The Chicago surrealists argued that, just as communism is too splendid an idea to be surrendered to the Communist Party, so too Freudian analysis is too subversive to be left to the psychoanalytic establishment. Agreeing with Freud that therapy is "not the most important" aspect of his research, we elaborated a critique that focused on the expanding horizons of revolutionary self-activity. Rejecting both the vulgar-Marxist denial of internal reality and the Jungian fetishization of a pseudo-unconscious, our aim in this ongoing project has always been to resolve the contradiction between conscious and unconscious, subjective and objective—in short, to break through the psychical and social obstacles separating desire from action. As a catalyst of such "breakthroughs," and a destroyer of repressive machinery, psychoanalysis remains useful to surrealism. Oneiric inquiry, trance states, erotic reveries, chance actions, and the development of new forms of surrational exploration continue to provide the most effective ammunition in the arsenal of surrealist subversion.

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